Being Boss is Hard: The Emotional Side of Leadership

The Emotional Side of Leadership
Rick Ginsberg, Ph.D.
University of Kansas
Being Boss Is Hard!
“I think this is the most miserable part of being the
managing director of a growing company. One by one I
had to replace our earliest supporters….It is a process
which is inevitable in a growing business and which takes
much of the fun out of it, so that after a few years of
sacking one’s old friends one grows to feel that success
may not be such a good thing after all, that possibly there
may be other, less sorry ways of earning a living in this
world. When success ultimately came to Airspeed, I was
ready to leave the company, having come to the
conclusion that I didn’t much like my job.”
Nevil Shute, “Slide Rule”
A Bad Night
I can’t believe it. Another Sunday night and I can’t fall
asleep. I must have been tossing and turning for five
hours. How many stupid sheep do I have to count! Let’s
see, if I fall asleep now I can get in three hours before
rushing to my first meeting. Darn, I hate nights like this.
It’s just that horrible meeting I had with the staff last week.
Everyone left so angry at me. Geez, I should have gone
along with the boss’ suggestion and selectively fired
people…then they would really have gone ballistic. No, I
went out of my way to protect everyone. What am I going
to do? I’ve got to get some sleep.
We’re Just Regular People
The leader is just another individual….They put
their pants on just like the rest of us do. They
have both good and bad traits. From time to
time, when things are going badly, their old
character traits slip through and they become
irritable, angry, irrational and capricious. They
behave in immature ways. They exhibit traits
that amaze us and we say, ‘I always thought of
him/her as a leader! What’s going on?’ They
disappoint us.
From: Richard C. Maddock and Richard L. Fulton,
Motivation, Emotions, and Leadership
The Sleep Test Revisited
…responsible people sometimes lie awake at night
precisely because they have done the right thing (authors’
emphasis). They understand that their decisions have real
consequences, that success is not guaranteed, and that
they will be held accountable for their decisions. They also
understand that acting honorably and decently can, in
some circumstances, complicate or damage a person’s
career. In short, if people like Hitler sometimes sleep well
and if people like Mother Teresa sometimes sleep badly, we
can place little faith in simple sleep-test ethics
Joseph Badarocco, from: Defining Moments: When
Managers Must Choose between Right and Right
The Unforeseen Reaction
Steve Brown
Ginsberg, Rick
Friday, July 25, 2008
Radio program
Mr. Ginsberg,
Hearing you on the radio this morning it became clear to me why our education system is in such a mess.
With idiots like you running the school of education at one of our major universities one can understand why our
young people’s minds have been lost.
Not only the minds of young college students but also the minds of the children they are then sent out to guide
armed with the corrupt waste of money you have brain washed them with.
I laughed when you went on your spiel of why only teachers should be teachers. What a joke! Trying to
compare it to the careers of professionals who make life and death decisions everyday. I have never taken an
education class or taught a day of school in my life, but am sure I could give a classroom full of young minds a
lot more in one day toward the rest of their lives than you – the esteemed and honorable dean of education at
the University of Kansas could give them. I’m sure you would spend your day bashing conservatives and
painting an evil picture of this country.
Your pal
George Hussein Bush
PS – Has anyone every told you, you look like Willy Wonka?
The Simple Test Question
The Square Game
The Agony of Decision Making
As anyone who has lived in the southeast
United States knows, hurricanes are
circular structures around an eerily calm
eye. As a hurricane passes through, we
experience the storm, then the calm, and
then the storm again. I write this account
from the eye of the hurricane.
- a President of a Community College
The Human Toll
You know, as much as I hated making cuts and
dismissing people who were good at what they
did, I got a weird sense of satisfaction and
pleasure watching my boss’ face as he let me go.
He was squirming in his chair as much as I used
to when performing the same task. We both
agreed that the company culture had changed,
and he shared that letting me go was the most
excruciating task he had ever undertaken. I
absolutely knew what he was feeling.
A Business Executive
Human Toll, 2
For me, I was in a state of higher anxiety. I knew I had
started a process that was now beyond my power to stop.
I bore the responsibility but none of the control. I took
long walks at night to try to unwind and sleep. I couldn’t
confide in anyone on campus, and I was too new to the
state to have established a support network among the
other community college presidents. I remember being
gripped by my own fears: for faculty who would have to be
released, for their families, for the college’s community
image, and in all honesty, for my own professional
position. Could I, would I be made the scapegoat for this
A Community College President
Showing the Right Face
There is no question that I felt great grief during this
situation, but a president must find private time for these
emotions…in this situation, one must steel oneself,
because you must act on behalf of others, making sure of
their well being and safety. You cannot do this if you
abdicate your leadership by indulging your emotions. If
and when you decide to fall apart, you must do it
someplace else, and later on. People need to know that
whoever the leader is, he or she is operating from a
position of strength. When they lose that confidence,
where can they turn? So I think the leader must be
steadfast, must be strong.
A Business Executive
Extra Grace Required
I work really hard to make Ed happy. I give him what he wants,
am always fair and cordial even when he is nasty and passive
aggressive; nothing seems to make a difference. He still
undermines me at every turn. I can’t please him; I can’t control
him; and I am at wits-end trying to figure out what to do next. It
literally is driving me crazy. I know it bothers me more than it
should. All too often I find myself playing back our interactions. I
keep wondering if I should have said something differently. I just
don’t get it. If I ever say anything about him to anyone else they
look at me like I’m crazy. “Ed, you must just misunderstand him.
He’s a great guy.” But he’s not. He’s a jerk, he doesn’t treat
people very nicely whom he sees as his inferiors, and he’s a drain
on me and the department. Everyone else is clueless about how
this guy acts and how destructive he is being. I just can’t seem
to let it go.
A University Administrator
“You’ve got to have a thick skin.”
a small business owner
Coping – Three Themes
Order Out of Chaos
Learning – personal growth even from intense emotional
2. Communication and Strategizing as Keys
Be as open as possible
3. Follow Your Heart
Do what’s right
Planning For An Emotional Future
I can’t go through anything like this again. I’ve got
to figure out a better way to deal with these gutwrenching situations
A University Administrator
Emotions are important. They are relevant to our everyday lives
They are not merely vestiges of our evolutionary past, like our
wisdom teeth or appendix. Nonetheless, for all the importance of
emotions, they receive so little attention in our formal education that
we are woefully inadequate when it comes to understanding or
dealing with them.
David R. Caruso and Peter Salovey, The Emotionally Intelligent Manager
Emotional Planning
Emotional Regulation
Emotional Competence
Emotional Awareness
Emotional Blueprint
Lessons Learned
Accept That Leadership Involves Emotional
Be Prepared!!
Take Care of Yourself
Become Emotionally Sensitive to Others
Be Aware of Emotional Potholes
Be Willing to Change
Lessons Learned, II
Own Your Expressions
Don’t Panic
Be Persistent
Become Emotionally Aware
Learn to Regulate Your Emotions
Develop Your Emotional Plan